Sunday, March 18, 2007

Adelaide, the City of Churches

A number of people questioned why we planned to visit Adelaide, since it doesn’t have the buzz and vitality of a Sydney or Brisbane. After arriving at our downtown hotel around 10, and having difficulty finding a place open for dinner, we started to agree with them. (Even the Casino, that has moved into the upper levels of the Central Train Station had nowhere to eat!) But the next day after a tour of the city, we were glad we came.

There is no doubt that Adelaide is very different from the other major cities. Although a small river runs through it, it is not a waterfront city. But it is a planned city, and the original planner/surveyor, Colonel light is a very celebrated man. As I read a quotation on his statue, I couldn’t help thinking about some of our early planning decisions at UniverCity. But I’m not expecting our citizens to erect a statue in my honour!

Unfortunately, like many other cities around the world, Adelaide removed its streetcars decades ago. However, one line remains, and it goes out to the seaside suburb of Glenelg. We took the 25 minute ride early one morning to meet up for breakfast with Ann Darwin, a delightful former colleague of my sister Estelle, who did her Phd at UBC in the 90’s. She lives right at the terminus of the tram, in a grand new apartment hotel overlooking the town square and beach. Sitting on her balcony overlooking the waterfront, I tried to take pictures of pretty girls for my friend who claims there are too many pictures of buildings on this blog. But everyone was wearing too many clothes to be of much interest.

Adelaide is known as the city of churches. While we were told this is no longer the case, and that many of the churches have been converted to other uses, I was disappointed to find that the synagogue on downtown’s Synagogue Place had been converted into a… church. Perhaps Adelaide’s most distinctive features are its numerous green parks, and the green belt which surrounds the city. Unfortunately, as a result of the severe drought the City has been experiencing, the parks are not as green, and the trees look very stressed. We were told that it did rain for a day in January, but other than that, it hasn’t really rained for well over a year! During our tour of the city, the guide talked a lot about stormwater management and water recycling. I told Sally it was like being at a meeting of the GVRD's Sustainability Committee. Significantly, the city's main fountain in the central square celebrates the three rivers that provide water to the city. Let’s hope it too doesn’t dry out.

The vehicle license plates proclaim that South Australia is the Festival State. And as its capital, Adelaide is at the centre of it all. While we were in town, the Fringe Festival was happening, and we managed to take in a production of ‘Over the Hill’, a one man show celebrating the life of Benny Hill. It was very good. I particularly enjoyed the routine in which he reads out a letter written on an old manual typewriter, that unfortunately has sticky keys, and the ‘p’s come out as ‘f’s and vice versa. You may remember it.

As we were leaving town, the World Police and Fire Games were about to begin. It was very exciting seeing the banners and different teams from all over the world, especially since Burnaby will be the next host in 2009. I must confess, I didn’t realize it was such a big deal. Now I understand why MLA Harry Bloy was coming to town. I'm surprised I didn't bump into Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

We didn’t stay long in Adelaide, since we were eager to get to the coast, and begin our drive to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road. But we gained a feel for the city, with its interesting shopping streets and neighbourhoods , and some very nice older established areas. I do look forward to returning, especially once it starts raining, so all the parks and trees don’t look so sad.


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